By Harriet Trickett
Wallabies, stunning plants and lakes can now be visited again as a Grade-I listed garden near Horsham reopened its gates after nearly a decade.
Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens was sold in 2010 and shut to the public. The gardens were unattended and left to grow wild.
In 2017 Penny Streeter OBE bought the 240-acre estate which also includes a Grade-II listed 19th-century mansion.
Her son, Adam Streeter, is now the managing director of Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens.
When the Streeters arrived, there was only one way down to the lakes.
A team of builders and gardeners restored original structures and rediscovered paths.
Mr Streeter’s wife, retail manager Beth Streeter, 31, said: “You couldn’t really see anything, everything was just growing into each other.”
‘The smiles have just been worth it’
The gardens were scheduled to reopen in 2018 but were officially reopened to the general public on April 6.
Mrs Streeter said: “The smiles have just been worth it, we have been working for two and a half years now and every second has just been so worth it, everyone is happy.”
Another big change is that dogs are now allowed to visit the gardens with their owners.
Anna Denham, an annual membership holder at Leonardslee said: “My dogs are my life, wherever I go I like to take my dogs and I like to find as many dog-friendly places as possible.
“It was just devastating when we knew it was sold and they were going to be closed, it was just such a loss to the whole area, well to everybody because it is just such a beautiful place.
“I’m very glad the dolls’ house museum is still here and was not sold off, it is still here for everybody’s pleasure.”
A new Sussex vineyard
The Streeters planted vineyards over two-and-a-half acres at Leonardslee Gardens a year ago.
It will be about six years until the wine, including English sparkling and British pinotage, is in the bottle.
A wine estate manager has just moved over from South Africa to oversee it.
General assistant Kiah Michael, 18, working her first day at Leonardslee Gardens on the opening weekend, said it was busy considering the weather and she loved the wallabies.
More flowers will bloom when the weather warms up. There are bee hives and bee boxes in the trees.
Young peacocks are in a pen adjusting to their surroundings before roaming free. There are three varieties of deer in the estate: Sika, Axis and Fallow.
South Africa-based entrepreneur Mrs Streeter OBE also owns Manning’s Heath Golf and Wine Estate.
Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens has become a cash free zone.
More details can be found at www.leonardsleegardens.co.uk.